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Medicare eligibility and enrollment

You work sun up to sun down most of your life so you can finally get to the Good Life of retirement. No more alarm clocks and deadlines. The Good Life is different for each of us and how you enjoy retirement is personal to you.

Just like the Good Life is personal to you, your Medicare enrollment dates depend on your specific situation.

While many people begin to think seriously about retirement before age 64, most people get serious about their research once they turn 64. The most important to note are the various deadlines because if you miss one it could result in more costs to you.

When you are eligible for Medicare

To be eligible for Medicare, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident who has resided in the United States for five continuous years, including the five years prior to applying for Medicare. You must be age 65 or older and eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.

There are other situations where someone might be eligible for Medicare earlier than age 65. If you are under age 65 and are permanently disabled, you are eligible once you have received Social Security disability benefits for at least two years. If you are diagnosed with certain diseases, you may also be eligible.

When you should take action

As you approach your 65th birthday, you’ll have a 7-month window of time called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) when you can sign up for Medicare. This IEP includes your 65th birthday month, the 3 months before and the 3 months after. It’s a good idea to go ahead and mark this on your calendar now.

Example: Stan turns 65 on August 15. His IEP is May 1 to November 31.

If your birthday lands on the 1st of the month, your IEP is determined as if you were born the month before.

Example: Kate turns 65 on August 1. Her IEP is April to October 31.

Medicare eligibility

If you are currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you’ll automatically be signed up for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). You’ll get your Medicare card in the mail a few months before your 65th birthday. You’ll still be able to make decisions during your IEP like getting Part B (medical insurance) and Part D (prescription drug coverage.)

If you don’t automatically get signed up, you’ll have to sign up for Medicare yourself. It’s a good idea to sign up for Medicare early in your IEP so you can get coverage as soon as you’re eligible.

If you miss your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

If you miss your IEP, Medicare has a General Enrollment Period. There is a window, January 1 to March 31, each year where you can enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Part B if you didn’t when you were first eligible. If you enroll during this time, your coverage won’t start until July 1. You may be subject to penalties if you don’t qualify for an exception so it’s important to know when to enroll.

If you work past age 65

Perhaps retiring at age 65 is not for you. If you plan to continue working past age 65, you may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare or go ahead and take Part A during your IEP. This may depend on the size of the company you work for. Read our Medicare options when retiring after age 65 blog post.

If you want to add a Medicare Supplement plan

Medicare Supplement enrollment periods differ from Medicare enrollment periods. Insurers must offer you a 6-month open enrollment period beginning with the first month in which you first enrolled for Medicare Part B. So you will want to enroll the first day of the month you are both 65 or older and enrolled in Part B to ensure guaranteed acceptance. If you miss this window, insurers are allowed to use medical underwriting to determine acceptance into the plan and how much you will be charged.

If all of these dates and details are still a bit confusing, we are here to help! Our Medicare advisors are ready to assist when you’re ready to talk. Call us at 1-866-627-6705, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to speak to an advisor.